I Am A Hyphenated American, But My Race And Ethnicity Are Not Mutually Exclusive

I Am A Hyphenated American, But My Race And Ethnicity Are Not Mutually Exclusive

Being a hyphenated American means that I am entirely both, not that I am half of each.

Hi, I am Kassy and I am a Filipino-American.

Apparently, I am pretty, what many would say, "racially ambiguous" because a question I get all too often is: *insert puzzled expression and tilt of the head*

"What are you?"

I have answered this question many different ways over my years, (ie: "an alien", "a human", "hungry") but I always knew what this meant and still to this day choose to answer the real question.

"What makes you brown?"

My answer is simple, I am half-Filipino. I am proud to tell people I am Filipino. My dad immigrated here before he even turned one, met my mom, and -- tada-- here I am.

One day, after answering this question for the millionth time, someone told me, "no, you are an American." This shocked me. I had never had anyone challenge me on this before, but then I got to thinking. The next time somebody asked me "what are you?"

I responded, "American."

Some people I told this to continued to say, "oh no like what are you like where did you come from." I said, "Seattle." This person got frustrated with me and dropped the question.

Another person I said this to was angry.

"How dare you take away and forget your culture and where you came from!"

Obviously, neither of these answers made anyone happy.

I got to thinking well I can say I'm Filipino-American. That should be okay, right? So, I tried that next the next time somebody asked me I said:

"I'm Filipino-American."

I got a couple of different responses to this some said, "well, of course, you're American! I just wanted to know what your ethnicity was!" this brings us back to the whole "what makes you brown?" question.

Another time I said this, someone told me, "we need to get rid of this hyphenated American b*******. If when you are a citizen, then you need to leave all the other stuff behind. You are just an American now. If not, get out."

I left this conversation angry.

I'm proud when I say I'm Filipino, so why would I stop telling people? I was left puzzled what was I supposed to do? When someone asks me "what are you?", no one would accept any of my answers.

I'm Filipino American.

Neither word, on either side of the hyphen, takes away from the other.

I think people forget that race, nationality, and ethnicity are all different things.

A race is a group of people descended from a common ancestor.

Nationality is the status of belonging to a particular nation.

Ethnicity is the fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition.

Race = ancestry.

Nationality = citizenship or residency.

Ethnicity = culture.

Because all these things are different, my ethnicity is Filipino, and Italian and Norwegian and many other things for that matter, and that doesn't take away from the fact that I am a US citizen that I am an American.

I was raised in America. I've spent 20 years of my life living and breathing in the United States and I've never lived anywhere else. There's no denying that I am an American citizen. I also have a rich culture that has been passed down to me and I love and embrace it.

I will never understand why people have come to see the world in strict binaries. Like I said, my ethnicity does not take away from my nationality or vice-versa. They are not mutually exclusive. I don't have to be one or the other.

The little girl in that taco shell commercial said it best:

Cover Image Credit: Kassy Mendoza

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20 Things That Happen When A Jersey Person Leaves Jersey

Hoagies, pizza, and bagels will never be the same.

Ah, the "armpit of America." Whether you traveled far for college, moved away, or even just went on vacation--you know these things to be true about leaving New Jersey. It turns out to be quite a unique state, and leaving will definitely take some lifestyle adjustment.

1. You discover an accent you swore you never had.

Suddenly, people start calling you out on your pronunciation of "cawfee," "wooter," "begel," and a lot more words you totally thought you were saying normal.

2. Pork Roll will never exist again.

Say goodbye to the beautiful luxury that is pork roll, egg, and cheese on a bagel. In fact, say goodbye to high-quality breakfast sandwiches completely.

3. Dealing with people who use Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, or Dominos as their go-to pizza.

It's weird learning that a lot of the country considers chain pizza to be good pizza. You're forever wishing you could expose them to a real, local, family-style, Italian-owned pizza shop. It's also a super hard adjustment to not have a pizza place on every single block anymore.

4. You probably encounter people that are genuinely friendly.

Sure Jersey contains its fair share of friendly people, but as a whole, it's a huge difference from somewhere like the South. People will honestly, genuinely smile and converse with strangers, and it takes some time to not find it sketchy.

5. People drive way slower and calmer.

You start to become embarrassed by the road rage that has been implanted in your soul. You'll get cut off, flipped off, and honked at way less. In fact, no one even honks, almost ever.

6. You realize that not everyone lives an hour from the shore.

Being able to wake up and text your friends for a quick beach trip on your day off is a thing of the past. No one should have to live this way.

7. You almost speak a different language.

The lingo and slang used in the Jersey area is... unique. It's totally normal until you leave, but then you find yourself receiving funny looks for your jargon and way fewer people relating to your humor. People don't say "jawn" in place of every noun.

8. Hoagies are never the same.

Or as others would say, "subs." There is nothing even close in comparison.

9. Needing Wawa more than life, and there's no one to relate.

When you complain to your friends about missing Wawa, they have no reaction. Their only response is to ask what it is, but there's no rightful explanation that can capture why it is so much better than just some convenient store.

10. You have to learn to pump gas. Eventually.

After a long period of avoidance and reluctance, I can now pump gas. The days of pulling up, rolling down your window, handing over your card and yelling "Fill it up regular please!" are over. When it's raining or cold, you miss this the most.

11. Your average pace of walking is suddenly very above-average.

Your friends will complain that you're walking too fast - when in reality - that was probably your slow-paced walk. Getting stuck behind painfully slow people is your utmost inconvenience.

12. You're asked about "Jersey Shore" way too often.

No, I don't know Snooki. No, our whole state and shore is not actually like that. We have 130 miles of some of the best beach towns in the country.

13. You can't casually mention NYC without people idealizing some magical, beautiful city.

Someone who has never been there has way too perfect an image of it. The place is quite average and dirty. Don't get me wrong, I love a good NYC day trip as much as the next person, but that's all it is to you... a day trip.

14. The lack of swearing is almost uncomfortable.

Jerseyans are known for their foul mouths, and going somewhere that isn't as aggressive as us is quite a culture adjustment.

15. No more jughandles.

No longer do you have to get in the far right lane to make a left turn.

16. You realize that other states are not nearly as extreme about their North/South division.

We literally consider them two different states. There are constant arguments and debates about it. The only thing that North and South Jersey can agree on is that a "Central Jersey" does not exist.

17. Most places also are not in a war over meat.

"Pork roll" or "taylor ham"... The most famous debate amongst North and South Jersey. It's quite a stupid argument, however, considering it is definitely pork roll.

18. You realize you were spoiled with fresh produce.

After all, it's called the "Garden State" for a reason. Your mouth may water just by thinking about some fresh Jersey corn.

19. You'll regret taking advantage of your proximity to everything.

Super short ride to the beach and a super short ride to Philly or NYC. Why was I ever bored?

20. Lastly, you realize how much pride you actually have in the "armpit of America," even if you claimed to dislike it before.

After all, there aren't many places with quite as much pride. You find yourself defending your state at all necessary moments, even if you never thought that would be the case.

Cover Image Credit: Travel Channel

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'Crazy Rich Asians' Didn't Get An Oscar Nod, But 'Bao's' Win Was A Victory For Representation

"Bao" told the story of many Asian immigrants and children of immigrants in a way that is hardly seen in mainstream media.


This year's Academy Awards were held on Sunday, February 24. Upon the initial announcement of the Oscar nominees, many were surprised to see "Crazy Rich Asians" completely missing from the list, especially following the film's momentum through award season. However, there is still plenty to celebrate in the world of Asian Americans following the awards show, including Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin's win in best documentary for "Free Solo," and, of course, Domee Shi's win in best animated short for "Bao."

"Bao" was the accompanying short film to "Incredibles 2" in theaters. The film represented aspects of Domee Shi's Chinese heritage, bringing her culture to a mainstream audience. However, its impact runs far deeper than just its visual components. Asian viewers could see their own stories depicted in the parent-child relationship in "Bao." We could remember our own moms while watching the mom in the film prepare food for her dumpling son, and we could reflect on our own relationships with our parents while watching the son grow more distant from his mother. "Bao," for many, was a deeply nostalgic and personal experience. It told the story of many Asian immigrants and children of immigrants in a way that is hardly seen in mainstream media.

Seeing a film like "Bao" being produced by such a large company as Pixar, not to mention it being presented alongside such a highly anticipated movie as "Incredibles 2," was in itself an impactful moment for Asian Americans. To see "Bao," a film that depicts the stories of so many members of the Asian-American community, receiving an Oscar is something very much worth celebrating. It is not only a win for the film itself and Domee Shi, but for the Asian community as a whole.

"Bao"'s win shows that the stories of Asian Americans can be successful and is, hopefully, another step towards improving the representation of Asians in Hollywood and mainstream media.

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